Part 1: Rise And Fall
(NB: The camera never moves from this spot on the map)
"Sit down, lowly peasants, and let me tell you about the most important man in Danish politics. Sit down and listen to the most marvellous and gripping tale of intrigue and betrayal you will ever hear. You have no doubt heard of me: Count Skjalm of Fyn, "The Webweaver", who is responsible for your well-being, prosperity and, yae, your very lives. Let me tell you of myself, and my many virtues.
"Firstly, I am a grand diplomat, and my way with words is second to no man! And more so, I am famed for being the most honest and true man in Denmark, and every man across the realm knows that not a single lie will stain my lips. Finally, I am a man wise to the ways of my many, many scheming and diabolical enemies and always aware of their dark designs upon my person.
"Let me tell you of the actors in this great game of chess. These are my key pieces, my rooks and knights, who serve me loyally as is their duty."
"Meet Signe, my wretched bitch of a wife. Not a single spark of life has ever crossed her corpulent eyes. She grubs money like a magpie. She has a vile temper and is constantly screeching at me like a devil from Hell to watch my weight, eat less, do more exercise. Fie, woman, fie! I spit on your vegetables; a ruler shall eat meat as is his right! It shall not be disease that does in the mighty Count of Fyn!"
"My long-passed father, Toke, looks down upon his righteous son from Heaven and is no doubt pleased! Never a more saintly and patient man was seen in the lands of Denmark, until his firstborn son and heir came to power of course. It was said that Toke once stood on the battlefield and faced down no less than four bandits and the knaves broke and ran before his blade, barely escaping with his coin purse and warhorse."
"My brother true, Auden Tokesen. He has a head for numbers, religion and poetry that I never did and I am not ashamed to say I rely upon him as my Steward."
"Bishop Lief is a good man, for a god-botherer. His word is true and his alms are generous and there is no guile within him, and I have appointed him the Chancellor of my court."
"Peder af Svendorg, a doughty knight and a loyal marshal - but do not trust him! I see the gleam of greed when he looks upon my throne; thank the Lord it is offset by the dull blade of sloth!"
"Esben is my accomplice in the schemes that shall take me to the unparalleled heights of the Danish kingdom. He has a sickening and cruel mind, but sometimes one must be cruel if one desires a crown."
"Unfortunately, that is the total sum of my competent staff. When required to fill the post of Court Chaplain I had to promote a stable boy purely on the fact that he was capable of reading."
"I only have one current vassal other than my loyal bishop - the treacherous mayor of Nyborg! He has dead eyes and a hideous beard and a barbaric propensity to duel when insulted directly. Not that he has ever dared to challenge one as great as I!"
"So those are they, my loyal court and humble vassals, the sum totality of my glorious kingdom. Not much, you may think - but Alexander conquered Persia with naught but Greeks! Imagine what he could have done had he the Sons of Denmark at his back! Listen as I tell you of my grand successes in the years to come."
"As you know, this land is ruled by the mighty King Svend, and he sought support in his bid to tax the commoners fairly. He asked for support, and I gave it without question!"
"I was naturally rewarded for my troubles, given the honour of standing at the King's right hand side during court. This was just the beginning of the honours the king would bestow upon me."
"The king was a man famed for his understanding of money and wealth, with more bastard children than seemed proper for a Catholic King. I am sure his talent for finances and accounting will never do me any harm."
"My brother was wed to a noble from another land. I turned down the gifts of gold that were taken before me in celebration of the event - I am no greedy churl to taint an event like this with talk of money!"
"So there I was; my demesne was secure, my position in court honourable, but I sought more. To increase the size of my land and holdings, some other fool would have to give his up! But the change of land in a kingdom as small as Denmark is no easy matter, and it required thought and cunning."
"The Duke of Selsvig was my best target. If I could send a missive to the Pope confirming his sin, then he would be excommunicated and his titles stripped from him. Then, as the king's loyal second, one would no doubt fall to me! The scheme was flawless, and a lesser mind would not have dared imagine using the Catholic Church itself as a weapon in his war!"
"While the wheels of intrigue turned, my foolish brother stirred up the peasants while trying to carry out his duties. For his idiocy, I only granted him the title of Master of the Horse instead of the more prestigious position of Cupbearer. Let that be a lesson!"
"My Solomonic wisdom proved the deciding factor in a case without legal precedent. The subject matter of the case is unimportant, simply remember that my decision was fair and just."
"Finally, it was time to go ahead with my scheme. And yes, I did compromise my reputation for honesty, but deception is the foundation of all war."
"However my bungling minions failed to execute a simple plan! The courier who was to take the letter to Rome took shelter in a Germanic castle and while there the foolish lout made love to a woman who turned out to be the Princess of Bohemia, and the two were wed at swordpoint to spare her the dishonour of carrying a child out of wedlock. Curses and damnation to all foolish messengers!"
"To make matters worse, my bungling Chancellor could not hold his over-honest tongue and told the King of Denmark in no uncertain terms what he thought of all his bastard children. And the King looked at me like it was my fault! I was surely fallen from his good graces; ay, all was lost!"
"To top it all off, my useless wife gave birth to a daughter. What a joke! Wed to that vile woman and she can't even provide me with an heir!"
"And then, out of frustration and at my lowest ebb, an idea came to mind. A cruel idea. An evil idea. An unspeakably brilliant and diabolical idea."
"For you see, Count Ragnar was the Spymaster of the Danish Kingdom - a position that requires utmost trust. And while effective at his role, he would be no match for me were I in his place."
"Being a Spymaster requires trust, as I said before. And what is the best way to destroy trust and credibility? To sow nasty rumours! I immediately set to talking of the time that I had seen Count Ragnar fornicating with one of his island's goats and the scandal took the King's court like wildfire, until it reached the ears of the King himself.
"They don't call me "The Webmaster" for nothing."
"The King called Count Ragnar to his throne one day, and questioned him in front of the entire assembled court about his sexual relations with goats. Ragnar's face flushed and his voice was impassioned as he denounced the rumours as lies, but the King kept asking his questions and the hall shook with laughter from the assembled mob. Eventually Ragnar fled from the room with tears in his eyes. Victory was mine! I had dethroned my scheming rival in one masterful stroke and was ready to take his place as my own!"
"I am so great."
"Flushed with victory, I invited a claimant to the Swedish throne to my court. He was an unlikeable coward, but now he was MY unlikeable coward - and with the success of my schemes recently I was considering making a move against the Swedish throne itself!"
"But moving against royalty would require funds. As Spymaster, I was in a perfect position to ensure that the Kingdom of Denmark would be providing those funds.
"Embezzlement is such a nasty word. I was acting alone to help an honourable Prince of Sweden with his rightful claim upon the Throne! It was my duty as a Christian King to steal from my liege!"
"To assist in my brilliant scheme, I made a brilliant move. I invited the help of Princess Ingerged, an amoral bitch who seemed all to happy to assist me in my plot.
"We, together, count and landless princess formed the intellectual core of a team to rob the highest authority in the land. Together we brewed a masterful plan for a heist: A bribed guard, an infiltration under the cover of darkness, and an escape cart cunningly disguised as a wooden horse.
"The night is tonight. Everything is perfect, and I can feel the cool weight of the gold in my hands already.
"When they speak of Count Skjam, "The Webspinner" of Denmark, they will remember this night. They will remember the impossible heist. They will remember this as the foundation of my war against Sweden which would leave me the loyal second to a grateful King with land to spare.
"Mark my words. They will remember."
CHARACTER: Countess Christina
- 75 gold ducats
- 1 County
- 2 Vassals
- 1 Prince of Sweden
- A Long Life Ahead Of You
QUESTION TO THE AUDIENCE:
What kind of person is little Count Christina going to be (assuming she survives)? What kind of personality will she develop? Does she want revenge against the King who executed her father, or does she blame Princess Ingerged?
Should we educate her for diplomacy, martial, stewardship, intrigue, or learning?